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Lack of ramp hampers Boardman woman's life

Published: Sun, July 8, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.

By Ashley Luthern



Four steps are all it takes for one township woman to feel trapped.

Barbara Boback, 68, lives alone in a condo unit at 5200 West Blvd., a building that looks like an upscale-apartment complex, complete with lush landscaping, a pool and gated parking lot.

To get in or out of her front door, Boback must navigate three steps and a raised curb — a process that’s gotten almost impossible after she became confined to a wheelchair.

“I was in remission from cancer when I moved in about two years ago, but this winter, I got a feeling that something was wrong,” she said.

She was right: In March, she discovered cancer had returned to her lymph nodes.

Now, she has multiple doctors’ appointments, usually at ValleyCare Northside Medical Center or the Hope Center for Cancer Care. But she can’t get there without help.

Her wish is for a ramp, which would help bring the 1969 complex up to current standards required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in 1990.

But as her story shows, ADA compliance, while required, is largely a civil matter.

Sometimes, private owners do not have to provide ADA upgrades because of the costs.

ADA guidelines are designed to cover many facets of life.

“The focus of the ADA is removing barriers to employment, public services, transportation and public buildings,” said Mitchell Rivard, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice.

It applies to more than just building requirements, but that is usually the area that earns the most attention, he added.

“The ADA requirements are continually updated and revised. There’s public input, and there’s a lot more that goes into the rules and regulations in terms of ADA for accessible design,” Rivard said.

ADA laws are far-reaching, said Jeffrey Uroseva, Mahoning County chief building official.

“It’s not just about ramps. It governs doorknobs, lights, counter heights and everything you could imagine for someone who is disabled to have access throughout,” he said.

Uroseva said in new construction, ADA provisions are part of code requirements adopted at the state and federal levels. Problems most often appear in existing buildings.

Uroseva said building owners are required to provide an accessible means into a building. When existing buildings are renovated, that’s often a time when entry ways, in particular, are brought up to code.

The ADA guidelines are federal measures, and states have adopted most if not all of them.

“But we as a building department do not have the authority to go in there. ... An existing building is allowed to exist, but that doesn’t mean an individual’s rights can be infringed upon. It’s a civil matter,” he said.

A property owner does not have to do upgrades if there’s a “disproportionate cost,” he said.

“If you’re remodeling three walls for $2,000, and the entryway needs a ramp and it costs $10,000, then that’s called a disproportionate cost,” said Uroseva.

The code reads that: Alteration shall not impose a requirement for greater responsibility than would be required for new construction. Often a problem comes up with restrooms, Uroseva said.

“We’ve had cases where they can’t enlarge the restroom because the major supply panel for the electricity is blocking it, and it would cost $40,000 to move that electric panel, and it’s technically unfeasible,” he said.

Condo rules

Boback owns her own condo unit, one of 38 in the complex, and is a member of the condo association. She put in a request for the ramp June 7, and the association is looking into it.

She had spoken to others earlier about it and found some support for the ramp, as nearly all of the residents are 55 years old or older.

“They want older people here, but they don’t want to provide them with access,” she said, pointing out that a ramp would help people to get groceries inside.

Boback graduated from Boardman High School in 1962 and traveled the world working for a cruise line. She lived primarily in San Diego and Orlando before moving back to the Mahoning Valley to be near her daughter, who lives in Canfield.

She pays more than $300 each month for the association to handle heating and cooling, water and other utilities and outside maintenance.

Temporary ramps were provided for Boback’s use, but Tom Carney, the association president, admits that she would need help from another person to use them and move her wheelchair onto the ramp. The ramps are about 5 feet long and just more than 2 feet wide.

Carney said that most people in the complex do not want to install a permanent ramp because of the cost.

“They have to pay an assessment, and it could possibly cost [each] resident $1,000 or $1,200,” he said.

Plus, Carney worries about a domino effect.

“If you go in that direction, everything would have to change. You would have to change the bathrooms to be handicapped accessible,” Carney said.


Some renovation work is being done to the 5200 West Boulevard complex, but it’s a minor alteration to replace columns with vinyl siding and soffits and install crown molding. It’s not changing the steps or walking surface, according to county building permits.

“We wouldn’t look at that as triggering [the ADA]. If the work is more extensive like moving the steps from one side to another, then we might look at it as triggering an ADA upgrade,” Uroseva said, adding that all permits are issued only after an on-site inspection.

“An existing structure like that, the building department is pretty much without authority as far as forcing someone to comply. It becomes a civil issue between that individual and that property owner, and that is the case with any building,” he said.

Uroseva said that ADA compliance is important, and it isn’t always a tenant who reports an ADA concern, but it could be someone visiting or somebody driving by.

Not having areas accessible to people with disabilities “is a form of discrimination,” Uroseva said.

But Carney maintains Boback knew what she was getting into and viewed the steps that are required to get to the pool, the parking area and into the building, before she moved in two years ago.

“There are steps all over the place,” he said.

Boback said her health was better and the cancer was in remission two years ago when she first viewed the condo. And she understands she is stuck — physically and metaphorically — in this situation.

Still, with her fixed income and mounting medical bills, she doesn’t have the funds to pay for a ramp herself, as some have suggested she do.

“It’s a good lesson in don’t buy a condo unless you’ve read all the rules,” she said.


1NoBS(1959 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

So let me get this straight. She wants and needs a ramp, but nobody else in the complex needs one. Thus she would be the main, if not sole, beneficiary of the installation of said ramp. Yet she wants everyone to pay for it. She doesn't mind having every resident assessed a portion of the cost of the ramp, even though she is the only one who would use it.

Maybe she can apply for a bailout and get federal funds.

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2bunkpatrol(90 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, bailouts only for those too BIG to fail. (no "trickle down" from bailouts either !!!)

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3FormerYtowner(96 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

So let me get this straight, NoBS is full of BS.

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4Sparky132(6 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

It's a sad story. In America nobody should be denied access because that person has a mobility issue.

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5Sparky132(6 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I can't beleive all of the insensitive nasty comments. Whatever happened to helping people? The woman lives in a condo with steps. No big deal unless you are confined to a wheelchair.

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6Sparky132(6 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

The woman has CANCER and as far as moving and renting out her garage for extra money probably wouldn't apply to the next HOA. Wow. I can't beleive the narrow minded idiots that have commented. What a joke!

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7Sparky132(6 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I'll just ask Mitt, he might help because he won't be in Washington in January.

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8TylerDurden(367 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

She looks white and possibly of some intelligence, so no money from the president for her. She doesn't meet the qualifications.

I agree with peacelover. She should consult a volunteer organization and see if they can work with the HOA to get a ramp or two built.

You cannot ask the residents to foot assessments for these ramps.

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9ohdrama0901(53 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

These ignorant and senseless comments are really upsetting to me. However you feel about the situation of her being sick doesn't mean rude comments need to accompany the ignorance. I would just sell the condo and get something more suitable for handicap accessibility if she is lucky because the housing market isn't good and folks just aren't going out buying condos and things. People are just plain out dumb and ignorant on this site and i don't know why they even have it still running. The Sharon Herald did away with theirs because of ignorance just like this and The Vindy needs to follow suit.

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10Sparky132(6 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Funny, I thought that we already did that not to mention free cell phones

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11southsidedave(4784 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

It's really a shame for this woman...and it could happen to any of us

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12danikytn(248 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Im sure that due to the publicity of this article, she'll get a suitable ramp right away. This issue, however should be addressed, because the population is aging and this will no doubt be a common problem.

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13Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

TO Sparky 123 I have found that you should

“Never argue with a stupid person for they will only bring
you down to their level and then beat you with experience

So of the comment here are just hate or stupid and some are both.
But they show Ytown class

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14Sparky132(6 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

So true freeatlast. Thank You. I could not agree more.

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15vinglass(237 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I don't get it. Why doesn't she just pay for the ramp herself? Maybe her daughter in Canfield can help her out with that expense. Maybe the folks who are sympathetic to her plight could contribute to defray the cost.

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16commoncitizen(961 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Sparky& freeatlast, why don't YOU build the ramp for this lady --you seem to want everyone else to do it!!

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17onthetown(254 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

How dare she get cancer and inconvenience all of these hardworking patriotic Vindicator commenters!

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18LoveWins(35 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I sure hope no one helps any of you when you're unable to get around without any help, and then you have to read all kinds of people's crappy opinions of how inconvenient and needy you're being.

America is horrible to their old and disabled. It's so sad. If anyone knows of any fundraisers for this woman, please post the information.

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19FifthAve(168 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

5200 West Blvd. is a beautiful building but it is out of compliance; and they have been of step for the past two decades. If there were a fire in the building and this woman couldn't get out because of lack of ramps, we would be outraged. Law suits would be filed. Just because she is the only tenant right now that needs ramp acdess doesn't mean otheres will not need them in the future. Further, there may be many who may have wanted to reside at 5200 but couldn't because the building has not made plans to accomodate physical disabilities. Clearly, in light of all the cosmetic rennovations that building has been through since the 70's, they have made a serious error in judgment in ignoring the needs of handicap citizens.

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20twentyonetwelve(98 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

She should move. Boardman is a dump.

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